View-Master is the trademark name of a line of special-format stereoscopes and corresponding View-Master "reels", which are thin cardboard disks containing seven stereoscopic 3-D pairs of small color photographs on film.
The View-Master system was introduced in 1939, four years after the advent of Kodachrome color film made the use of small high-quality photographic color images practical. Tourist attraction and travel views predominated in View-Master's early lists of available reels, most of which were meant to be interesting to users of all ages. Most current View-Master reels are intended for children.
1939–66: stereoscopic sightseeing 
In 1911, Sawyer's Photo Services began operations. In 1918, brothers Fred and Ed Mayer bought part of Sawyer's. In 1926, Harold Graves joined Sawyer's and was responsible for Sawyer's producing photographic postcards and album sets as souvenirs. Later, photographic greeting-cards were added to the product line and sold to major department stores.
Wilhelm Gruber, a piano tuner, organ builder and photographer, lived in Portland, Oregon. While vacationing at the Oregon Caves National Monument in Josephine County, Oregon, he met the President of Portland's Sawyer's Inc, a picture postcard and film developing company, Harold Graves. Gruber made a stereo imaging rig from two Kodak Bantam Specials mounted on a tripod. He had the idea of updating the old-fashioned stereoscope by using the new Kodachrome 16 mm color film. Shortly thereafter, in 1939, Gruber and Graves formed a partnership which led to the retail sales of View-Master viewers and reels. The patent on the viewing device was issued in 1940, on the Model A viewer. The View-Master quickly took over the postcard business at Sawyer's.
In late 1939, the View-Master was introduced at the New York World's Fair (marked "Patent Applied For"). It was intended as an alternative to the scenic postcard, and was originally sold at photography shops, stationery stores, and scenic-attraction gift shops. The main subjects of View-Master reels were Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon.
In the 1940s, the United States military recognized the potential for using View-Master products for personnel training, purchasing 100,000 viewers and nearly six million reels from 1942 to the end of World War II in 1945.
In 1951, Sawyer's purchased Tru-Vue, the main competitor of View-Master. In addition to eliminating the main rival, the takeover also gave Sawyer's Tru-Vue's licensing rights to Walt Disney Studios. Sawyer's capitalized on the opportunity and produced numerous reels featuring Disney characters. The takeover would pay off further in 1955, with reels of the newly opened Disneyland.
In 1952, Sawyer's began its View-Master Personal line, which included the View-Master Personal Stereo Camera for its users to make their own View-Master reels. Although at first successful, the line was discontinued in ten years. This line spawned the Model D viewer (available until the early 1970s, it was View-Master's highest-quality viewer) and View-Master's only 3-D projector, the Stereomatic 500. The other projectors were 2-D and used only one of the images.
In 1955, the Model E was introduced, with a more modern design, big ivory buttons on the picture changer levers, and a large "V" slot on top for easier reel insertion. It was black in color and about 4 inches high, 5 inches wide, and 4 inches deep.
In 1958, the Model F was introduced; it used C-cell batteries to power an internal lighting source.
Industrial designer Charles "Chuck" Harrison led the team designing the Model F View-Master. Fifty years later (in 2008) Harrison won the Cooper-Hewitt Lifetime Achievement Award. 
In 1962, the Bakelite models were replaced with plastic versions, the first of which was the Model G. This change was driven by Sawyer's new president, Bob Brost, who took over in 1959. The View-Master had been constructed originally from Kodak Tenite plastic and then Bakelite, a hard, sturdy, somewhat heavy plastic. The material of choice under Brost became the lighter thermoplastic.
1966–present: stereoscopic toy 
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In 1966, Sawyer's was acquired by the General Aniline & Film (GAF) Corporation, and became a wholly owned subsidiary. Under GAF's ownership, View-Master reels began to feature fewer scenic and more child-friendly subjects, such as toys and cartoons. Television series were featured on View-Master reels, such as Doctor Who, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Star Trek, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Here's Lucy, and The Beverly Hillbillies. Actor Henry Fonda appeared in a series of TV commercials for the GAF View-Master.
In 1971, the Talking View-Master was introduced.
In 1976, a red and white View-Master with a blue handle was released to commemorate the United States Bicentennial.
In 1977, GAF switched the film used in View-Masters. GAF had its own line of film and had planned to switch over all View-Master production to it. The film was of poor quality: Images turned red over time.
In 1981, GAF sold View-Master to a group headed by Arnold Thaler, head of Ekco Housewares, for $24 million.
During this time from 1970 to around 1997, there were versions of "Talking View-Masters," which included audio technology with the reels with three major designs with increasing sophistication.
In 1987, six years later, a thriving View-Master International purchased Ideal Toy Company and became known as View-Master Ideal (VMI). To mark the event, the company issued the first 3-D stock certificate, issued with red/blue glasses to view their logo, View-Master with the world as a background in 3-D. When the stock split 2-for-1 in 1989, the certificate was industry standard with no 3-D enhancement.
In the mid-1980s, the toy had a home video label, notable for producing Kidsongs. There was also an electronic variant of the View-Master that had played reels with an synchronous audio-recording with each picture as they are displayed in the viewer.
In August 1989, the View-Master product line was sold for the third time to Tyco Toys, Inc. of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, upon its purchase of View-Master Ideal. The View-Master line remained part of Tyco until Tyco’s merger with Mattel, Inc., in 1997.
Shortly after the merger with Mattel, Inc., the View-Master category shifted to Mattel subsidiary Fisher-Price, in East Aurora, New York.
In March 2009, the Fisher-Price division of toy maker Mattel announced that they had stopped production in December 2008 of the scenic reels depicting tourist attractions. These reels of picturesque scenes and landscape scenery were descendants of the first View-Master reels sold in 1939. Fisher-Price announced they would continue to produce reels of animated characters. In late 2009, Alpha-cine announced it would take-up the scenic reel production under an agreement with Fisher-Price.,
Cumulative production and honor 
There have been some 25 viewer models, thousands of titles, and 1.5 billion copies of reels. Despite its long history and many changes in models and materials, the same basic design of reels and internal mechanism remained, ensuring that every reel will work in every model.
Notable uses 
Reels have been produced for Disneyland, many TV shows, movies (such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Flying Nun and Jurassic Park), and the U.S. military (for airplane and ship identification and range estimation).
David L. Bassett, an expert on anatomy and dissection, collaborated with Gruber to create a 25-volume atlas of human anatomy using the View-Master system.
View-Master produced custom reels for commercial customers to show 3-D images of products and services to potential clients. For example, in the early 1990s, Canadian restaurant chain East Side Mario's used a View-Master reel as their dessert menu.
Among the newest View-Master products are a Discovery Channel View-Master, the new Virtual Viewer, the Discovery Channel View-Master Projector and Telescope, and the View-Master 3-D Pocket Viewer, which feature images of popular performers in concert and backstage.
See also 
- Mary Ann & Wolfgang Sell and Charley Van Pelt, "View-Master Memories" , M.A. and W. Sell, ISBN B0006S314I, 2000 Self-Published
- (ODHS) Health Consultation. View-Master factory supply well a/k/a Mattel Portland Operations, 2003 (Report). Oregon Department of Human Services and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/pha/PHA.asp?docid=293&pg=0.
- Jonathan Glancey (2008-07-31). "Classics of everyday design No 48: Jonathan Glancey on the View-Master | Art and design | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Clatworthy, Keith. "Talking View-Master". 20th Century Stereo Viewers. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- "ATSDR-PHA-HC-View-Master Factory Supply Well-p1". Atsdr.cdc.gov. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Doug Whiteman, View-Master 3-D travel reels head into the sunset, AP, March 2009
- View-Master Custom and Scenic Reel Sales, viewmastercustomreels.com, Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- Easy-Bake Oven. "National Toy Hall of Fame". Strongmuseum.org. Retrieved 2011-05-23.[dead link]
- Borys Kit and Jay A. Fernandez. "DreamWorks Eyes View-Master Pic". DreamWorks Studios. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Schwartz, John (2008-04-22). "The Body in Depth - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "The View-Master Ultimate Reel List - Commercial Reels". Retrieved 2012-08-12.
- Official View-Master Site at Fisher-Price
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